Fernando Alonso: “Today’s result is more or less what we were expecting, not having had a great pace all weekend, always being between sixth and tenth and even in Q3, I could not do more. Here the long run tests went better in terms of degradation than in Korea and that gives us hope that we can make up ground in the race. Tomorrow, we will give it our best shot, as always, trying to count on our strong points; the start, the strategy and the way we manage tyre degradation. The aim is definitely not just to finish in the first eight to keep the Championship alive, because if Vettel doesn’t win here, he will do it in one of the next races, when the number of combinations that can affect the result will be less. Now we need to pick up points for second place in the Constructors’ Championship and for that we need to finish ahead of Mercedes, who are only one point behind us”.
Felipe Massa: “Managing to put together a perfect lap on this incredible track is always extremely satisfying and it reminded me of my pole here in 2006. Even if it’s a fifth place, it’s still a good starting point for tomorrow. Already yesterday, I could feel the car was well balanced and today we did a good job, managing to get all the potential out of it. More than this was not possible, but I am very happy all the same. Sure, tomorrow’s race will not be easy, because we have some very fast cars ahead of us, but we can be in the game and for that we must concentrate to the maximum on strategy and tyre management. Getting a good result will depend very much on having a strong pace. Last year, I finished second here and this evening I will try and remember how I did it”.
Pat Fry: “It was a really very closely contested qualifying. The performance of the car improved since yesterday, partly because of the work we did to adjust the handling, partly because of the track conditions and the wind, which was particularly strong in the first sector. The positions more or less reflect our expectations, even if the gap to the leaders is smaller and that is an encouraging sign for us. Unfortunately we continue to suffer from a lack of aerodynamic downforce and so we struggle to fight for the top places. Today, we did a lot of work to find the right car configuration and both drivers gave their best. It’s never simple tackling a race starting from these positions, but in Suzuka, as we know, anything can happen. Now we must concentrate on preparing for the race and ensure we are ready to make the most of any opportunity, trying not to make any mistakes. Our pace on a long run, as seen yesterday, means we can be confident about tomorrow, even if we will have to take into account the variables, such as the weather and track conditions, which as we have seen today, partially affected the performance of all the cars”.
Japanese GP – A great show for the fans
Suzuka, 12 October – Fifth and sixth in this morning’s final free practice for Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, evolved into another fifth, this time for the Brazilian and eighth for the Spaniard in this afternoon’s qualifying session.
Felipe was delighted with his lap, as all drivers are when they feel they have got something right on one of the most challenging circuits in the world. The Brazilian took pole here in 2006 and finished second last year, so his good form, out-qualifying his team-mate for the sixth time this season, is not that surprising. As for Fernando, he was sanguine about being around three tenths of a second slower than Felipe on an afternoon that didn’t deliver any real surprises. The key thing is that both Ferrari men are sufficiently well placed to aspire to a good points haul tomorrow, as they join forces to try and increase that one point lead over third placed Mercedes in the Constructors’ classification. Fernando always aims high, so the suggestion from a journalist that if he finishes where he starts tomorrow’s 53 lap race and Vettel wins, he can keep the Drivers’ title race alive for a bit longer, didn’t really register. Suzuka often has some surprises in store, so given the current pace of the F138 over a long run, it could be a profitable afternoon tomorrow for both Ferrari men. It certainly promises to be a great show for the fans.
Today’s qualifying has produced an unusual looking grid in several ways: sure, the front row is all blue, but its Red Bull’s Mark Webber who has waited until Round 15 of the championship to secure his first pole position of the season, with team-mate Sebastian Vettel alongside him. It’s actually the first time this year the Australian has out-performed the German. Lewis Hamilton is third for Mercedes ahead of the Lotus of Romain Grosjean. On the outside of Felipe is Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes, while Fernando has the on-form Nico Hulkenberg on his inside in the Sauber.
Although the wind, stronger and coming from a different direction to Friday’s, had a significant effect on the handling of many of the cars today, that’s about all the meteorological surprises expected for the weekend, so tomorrow’s fifteenth round of the World Championship should run from start to finish in the dry. That’s for the best for everyone, on this daunting Suzuka track.
Japanese GP – Rows three and four for the Scuderia
Suzuka, 12 October – As is usually the case, the outcome of qualifying was decided in the final seconds of the session. Tomorrow, Felipe Massa will start the Japanese Grand Prix from fifth place, having done a 1.31.378, while Fernando Alonso will be three places back thanks to a lap in 1.31.665.
In Q1, both men went out for a first run on Hard tyres, Fernando doing a good 1.32.371 which got him through to the next part. Three minutes before the end, the session was red flagged as Vergne’s car had to be retrieved after a fire. At the restart, Massa went out with a set of Mediums setting the second fastest time of 1.31.994 on his final lap.
In Q2, Alonso used his first set of Medium tyres to go eighth quickest in 1.31.828, while Massa used the Mediums with which he had finished the previous session, before fitting a new set to go sixth in 1.31.668.
In the final session, run entirely on the Medium tyre, Alonso’s first lap was a 1.31.839 and with three minutes remaining the two F138s went out again for the last flying lap of the day, which saw Massa set the fifth fastest time and Alonso the eighth. Pole went to Mark Webber in the Red Bull in a time of 1.30.915.
Japanese GP – A third row to finish free practice
Suzuka, 12 October – Saturday at Suzuka has begun with a Red Bull at the top of the time sheet and a change in the weather, as the wind has changed direction and the temperature has dropped a few degrees. In the final hour of free practice, Australia’s Mark Webber was quickest in 1.32.053, while behind him came the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton (1.32.187) and Nico Rosberg (1.32.355.) Next up is Romain Grosjean in the Lotus with a 1.32.707 and then come the Ferraris, with Fernando Alonso fifth in 1.32.800, while Felipe Massa is sixth with a 1.32.815. Both men were fine tuning their set-up prior to qualifying, trying to improve the stability of the F138, running both compounds, doing one run on Hards before switching for a final run on the Medium tyre.